Tag Archives: motherhood

First Day Feels.

The main thing I need to say is this: Man, we got here fast.

My second little minion started kindergarten today. He was quiet and reserved at drop-off, but didn’t cling to me or shed any tears. My second grader, true to form, flounced off into her class with a quick hug and kiss from me, and nary a backward glance. What a darling, she is, to not need a single thing from me anymore… right?

Parents often talk about how time flies, and you shouldn’t blink, and you’ll miss whatever that frustrating thing is. And truth be told, I have a four-year-old who still sometimes poops his pants and NO, KAREN, I WILL NOT MISS THAT. But I really do get it.

So when today at pick-up, I had been anxiously awaiting the news from my 5 and 7 year olds, thinking that like normal they’d be bursting with news and stories and “Oh, Mom, this was hilarious!” and my daughter was full of that. But my son seemed shell-shocked, saying he had been at school for, like, an hour (the longest imaginable time), and had gotten lost and separated from his class at dismissal, and dissolved into tears. I was in no way prepared for that. So I did what any unselfish and loving mother would do: cried right along with him, in front of all the other parents picking up their darling ones, including two of my friends (parents of my kids’ friends, too) who hugged and rubbed backs (his and mine) and checked in on us later. What would I have done if he was my oldest, that was our first day of kindergarten, and we didn’t know anyone?

So to all my mamas out there, the ones who had an amazing first day, and the ones who pried sad kiddos off their legs just to get out of the classroom this morning, be friends. Be friends with each other. Everyone needed a hug today, whether it be for congratulatory purposes (YES AND AMEN) or for the tears you are or aren’t willing to shed until your head hits your pillow tonight. I’ve got hugs to go around, and encouragement for either situation. Mamas, we are doing this together. Let’s share the love.

Savoring Ordinary Time

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles

In the midst of our celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, buying Christmas gifts while they’re on sale, and decorating our houses for the season ahead, we get caught up in a lot of days in a row that feel “extra”. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take a long few weeks to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or that we shouldn’t let ourselves get swept up in the celebrations that the end of the calendar year can bring. What I am saying, or rather, asking, is that when New Year’s has come and gone, will we be satisfied with what’s left? What even is left? Our ordinary.

In Emily P. Freeman’s lovely book Simply Tuesday, she invites the reader to find a way to look at the ordinary and even mundane moments so that we may appreciate their smallness. Smallness, she says, is often where we grow closer to Christ. We don’t particularly like the smallness, the ordinary, or the (gasp!) boring, but we do need a nudge to look for God in whatever is right in front of us, however unsightly or messy it may be.

As we navigate the busy and glorious season of Advent, our hearts are naturally more attuned to the Kingdom-looking parts of our lives. You know, the familial relationships that are healthy, the beauty in icicles and snowflakes, and the snuggles as our children are drifting off to sleep, cozied up beside us. But the challenge comes here in January, when the lights and tinsel have been packed away, the sugary dreams have worn off, the “New Year” has been properly celebrated, and we’ve lost a few pieces to most of our gifts that were so carefully chosen, wrapped, and placed under the tree. What happens when all the magic is gone? Do we just attempt to fabricate it?

To be honest, I don’t think the magic goes anywhere. It just looks a little different. In “ordinary time” – which by the way, is an actual part of the church’s liturgical year when the numerous celebrations aren’t happening – magic might be a little more difficult to find, but it isn’t gone. Sometimes, it takes actually resting, looking, and waiting. Hang on to this glimpse of forever we got, while things were beautiful and kindnesses were more frequent. Hold on to the feeling of love and warmth you got in a room full of your people.  Don’t forget that those things aren’t created by the Christmas season – they’re created by hearts full of joy, given to us by a Creator who loves us. He gifts us the ability to see with His eyes the beauty of wonder and truth, to hear with His ears the exciting sounds of creation, to love with His heart those He has placed in our paths. We only need to be willing to receive those gifts and use them in our own ordinary time.

Teach Them How to Pray

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My daughter is 6. She’s been really interested in praying: the words we say, who we’re talking to, things we ask for, etc. Naturally, this has made me much more intentional about the time I spending talking with Jesus in her presence, as well as how we pray together at bedtime, or when there’s a need. Since she’s been in first grade, she’s really begun to know things. Parents,  I’m sure you know what I mean. She’s started reading, she’s in school with a bunch of kids I don’t know, she spends time with her school friends when I’m not within earshot, and she’s brought home some odd turns-of-phrase. But one thing I want her to pick up well is how she talks with Jesus.

She asked me at bedtime the other night if I could give her a list of things to pray. Oh, how I loved this innocent request, suggesting that there are words that are perfect to pray at any and all times. Then, as I was writing down a little ideas list for her, all organized into things to thank Him for (like our family, our home, our church), things to ask for help with (such as being kind, forgiving others, and loving others well), and those items we usually try to remember (like keep our family members healthy and protect our home) the idea popped into my head: There already is a perfect prayer for any and every time we pray.

In Matthew’s gospel, we join Jesus as he preaches the Sermon on the Mount. About halfway through, he gives us the way to not to pray, and the perfect example of a prayer to our heavenly Father. How could I not begin here, with Jesus’s words, to teach my daughter how to pray?

So in addition to some ideas of things she could mention during prayers, or people who might need an extra blessing, I wrote out Matthew 6:9-13. Here it is in the ESV, in case you aren’t familiar, or you only know the version you memorized before you knew what the words meant:

9. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

10. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

11. Give us this day our daily bread,

12. and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I closed her version with the simple words I had learned so long ago: For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

When so many things we teach our children can feel really complicated, I am more than content to begin the process of teaching her to pray with these simple words, straight from Jesus, to be used as a guideline for every other prayer we pray.

God Knows Best

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My four-year-old just lost his first tooth. At age four. As the second “dentally precocious” child we’ve had, I wasn’t quite as surprised as I might’ve been, but still… I had some feelings of “Already?!”

As an adult, I’ve noticed that there have been SO many milestones – graduations, weddings, births, etc. – that I’ve come across for myself and for family and friends. But there have also been little, seemingly insignificant “milestones” that have almost passed me by. For instance, the loss of a first tooth seems like a big thing, right? Well, what if it’s your second child? You still give the money from the tooth fairy, and you still take a picture of that first hole in his mouth. But does it feel as crazy as your oldest child’s first tooth being gone?

Each and every new little landmark that we pass as a family has been hitting me… HARD. We just stopped using diapers with our youngest. I’ve been crying about how I probably won’t have any more babies but I’m SO FREE without a diaper bag. Our oldest is reading pretty darn well on her own, and while that’s a huge milestone to her first grade teacher, it didn’t feel huge until I realized she was reading bedtime stories to her brothers with no problem. Is my job all done there? Even her homework has been throwing me for a loop – since when do first graders have homework where they need my iPad for half an hour to accomplish it?!

I know, I know… I’m being dramatic, and I don’t even have those postpartum hormones to blame. But some days, every new, however small, display of independence from my kids has me reeling – I want them to need me. Heck, I’m 32 years old and I need someone to guide me. I want to show them that independence is good, and necessary, and we will happily celebrate it! But a little dependence on a parent who has been around the block, cares for you deeply, and can help guide you? This is not to be ignored.

You see, I need a little leading from Holy Spirit sometimes. I need a little nudge here and rebuke there. How else will I grow more and more into a person who looks even a little like Jesus? I need a little boost of courage, of “I’ve got you” as I try out something new. I need a rebuke when I slip into my old ways. I need a guiding presence as I navigate waters I’ve never sailed. How best can I show these weaknesses and strengths to my children as I raise them?

God, only you know how to do this best. Only You can allow me to lead when they need guidance, push when they need propelling forward, let them flourish when they’re walking right where they should, and yes, knock them down a peg when they’re… being stinkers. But with Your guidance, I can guide them. This isn’t the blind leading the blind, you know. This is a mama, doing her best to follow her Father in His footsteps as I lead my littles on their way, too.

Learning to Savor the Littles

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles under the title ‘The Years Are Short’.

If I’ve read it once, I’ve read it a thousand times: The days are long, but the years are short.

If I’ve been told once, I’ve been told a thousand times: Oh, but you’ll miss this.

I’m not here to argue with either of those things. But I will take a moment to respond.

The days are pretty frequently long, specifically when you’re not sleeping much, and you’re not able to easily get out of the house for a few hours. But recently I’ve been relishing this new season of mobile kids, flexible naps, and the youngest one almost being potty trained. The light is at the end of the tunnel for being able to just pick up and go somewhere without packing the whole house, or to eat at a semi-nice restaurant without calling a babysitter, or turn my back for a few minutes at a time. I’ve been waiting for the times I could read a book in a different room and not come back to wails and cries or colored walls. But there’s also evidence that we aren’t totally out of those woods, and likely never will be. They’re great playmates, but I still need to run interference sometimes. Yes, I am able to sneak off for a few minutes at a time, but they’re usually finding me and needing snacks within the first few pages I read.

As far as missing it, I do. Already. I’m in that strange limbo of knowing it’s over before it’s truly over, missing the little things I know will end soon, even while they’re still happening. So when my almost-three-year-old wants me to sing him eight songs, give him four kisses and three hugs at bedtime, I’m SO here for it. When my (truly very heavy) four-year-old wants me to carry him every once in a while, I pick him up and do it. When my six-year-old wants an extra bedtime song, or to help me make everyone’s breakfast – even if it’s much faster when I do it alone – I try to oblige her.

I don’t want to look back and live with a regret that I did not taken the time to soak up my little children… their summer-sweaty hair, their still-round cheeks, their improperly-pronounced words, and their affection for their mama that I’m sure as teenagers they won’t have. How much counseling would I need to live with that regret? How many times will I still ask God to never let these memories fade?

Yes – so many things are important right now in their short lives. They’re sponges, soaking up information, ideas, words, and actions. They’re learning citizenship, responsibility, faith, and love. I could spend an entire day just trying to keep up with those things in what I do. But sometimes I just want to sit and watch them, to hold their hands, to let them eat the ice cream for dinner because there are more of those toothy smiles that way.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll get up bleary-eyed and thankful, praising the Creator of these little treasures that are actually the biggest treasures I could possibly have.

A Lifestyle of Prayer

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I recently got a list of questions on self-care (Buzz word!) from a counselor to journal my way through, to help gauge my “level of health” in several areas.

WOW, it was tough.

But one of the most interesting ones was “Is prayer your lifeline and lifestyle?” I had to really ponder this one. Lifestyle was an easy image to conjure; a lifestyle of prayer must be what Paul means when he says in 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. A lifestyle of prayer to me suggests a closeness with God at all times, a reaching out as the first idea, not after a few other ideas have fallen short. But “lifeline” to me felt like a throwback to that show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” The contestant used a “lifeline” when they didn’t know the answer to one of the questions. It wasn’t the first thing they did, and it often took two or all three of their lifelines to get an answer they felt confident about keeping for their own. Using prayer as my “lifeline” seems more like a last resort or a second thought than a first reaction.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about making prayer my lifestyle, and how difficult that can prove to be when I have so many things (ie: children) vying for my attention and just plain making noise when I’m trying to have “quiet time”. (Why does it have to be quiet, anyway?) I’m reading a book called Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman with a group of friends, and she says early on in the book that we shouldn’t be deterred from our time with the Lord because we’re busy with little children or chores or anything else, but rather that we should submit all of those times to the Lord, just as we would submit our “quiet time” to Him. I literally wrote in the margin of the book “Don’t make ‘silence’ or ‘quiet time’ an idol.”

How lovely would it be if I had hours to set aside each day for worship, studying the Scriptures, prayer, and journaling?! That would be a dream, but it just isn’t possible in my life as a mom of young children who also works part time. I’m guessing it’s not possible for many, or even most, of us with our busy lives in 2018. Monks in monasteries may have time for quiet hours set aside for Jesus, but my time with Jesus usually looks a lot more like worship music while I scramble eggs, and praying over booboos and sibling skirmishes. Is that my ideal? No, not always. But will these years of tiny people needing me but unfortunately short and certainly missed? Yes. So I’ll continue to pray for sibling altercations, and for patience in the midst of sleep deprivation and unwashed hair. If you’re in the trenches, Jesus will still meet you there.

Nervous About Summer

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I don’t know about y’all, but I went through a few weeks where I was a little nervous about summer.

You know what I mean, right? No schedule, no plans, wide open space… sometimes that’s a little scary for a mom with three younguns, who also tends to get frustrated sometimes (on my best days) or get full-on angry (on my worst days) about stupid little stuff. I don’t like getting angry or being frustrated with my children, and so having all that unstructured time with any number of options as how to fill it? Lord Jesus come quickly.

So I signed them up for some camps, went ahead and put our VBS on the schedule, and looked at a good time to go visit my parents in Georgia. We’ve recently renewed our children’s museum membership and our pool membership, so things are already looking a little bit less boring. You know what else I did? I came totally clean about my fear and anxiety about the summer with a friend. I asked her to pray for me and with me about multiplying my patience and dividing my frustration. I shared with her something I’d heard recently about how we pray so often for God to GIVE us things… stuff, people, jobs, circumstances… and how it might be that sometimes, we need to pray for God to take some things away.

So this summer, I’m asking God to take some things away – right here on the internet so y’all can see and keep me accountable if you notice I’m trying to hang on to them.

God, please take away my anxiety about unstructured time. Take away the fear that it won’t be “fun” or “easy” without a few hours of school each day. Take away the anxiety about sibling fights or complaints or whines that get under my skin quickly. Take away my concern for filling every moment of time with fun or learning, and allow me to just go with the flow.

God, please take away my need for control. I don’t need to micromanage as many things as I think I do. So take away my desire to control every variable of every situation. Take away my tendency towards being in charge of my children, instead of letting them tell me what they need and want, or DON’T need or want.

God, please take away my short temper. Take it right away, because this mama ain’t got time to get mad about stupid little stuff, or to just to conclusions that make me angry, when I haven’t checked out the situation fully. Take away my frustration and anger that creep out, even when I don’t want them to.

Lastly, please take away any expectations I have about how the summer will go. Anytime I have a perfect vision in my head, it doesn’t come to pass quite like I think it will. That isn’t always a bad thing, but there is disappointment even if it still goes well. So take away any ideas I have of perfect park picnics or easy trips to the pool. My children are small and unpredictable, and I want to enjoy them in this way instead of expecting them to ask like they’re older.

Sometimes, all it takes to dispel your fears is a little vulnerability, coupled with prayer. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, he says much about how praying for each other is an essential part of living in community. Take your anxieties and fears to a friend or mentor, and ask them to pray with you. That first step might be the hardest, but it’s also the most effective.